The Mother of Jesus is a saint. Yet, it always strikes me as a bit strange when I hear her called Saint Mary.
This might be because I'm used to calling her “our Lady.” It might also have something to do with the fact that she is unique among the saints.
Mary was immaculately conceived, is full of grace, is the Mother of God, and is the Mother of the Church. And that's not all.
Among the many other things unique to our Lady is her Assumption, both body and soul into heaven. The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls this “a singular participation in her Son's Resurrection” (#966).
We celebrate the Memorial of Mary's Assumption on Aug. 15.
In 1950, Pope Pius XII defined the dogma of the Assumption for the whole Church. This proclamation came after centuries of belief in Mary's special entry into heaven.
In the fifth century, Eastern Christians celebrated a feast on Aug. 15 called the “Memorial of Mary.” In the following century, it came to be called “Mary's Dormition,” or “falling asleep.”
This feast was adopted by Rome in the seventh century, and its title changed to the Assumption.
The Byzantine liturgy has this prayer for the Dormition:
“In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death.”
It was certainly fitting that Mary, who participated so closely with her Son during his earthly mission, should share in his victorious resurrection. Mary has already realized in herself what the rest of us will experience during the general resurrection of the dead.
“The Mother of Jesus in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come,” declares the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium. “Likewise, she shines forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God” (#68).
Honor of Our Race
The glorious Assumption of Mary has a great deal of significance for us. Our Lady is the honor of our race, the first fruit of the victory that Jesus won for us. She is a “sign of certain hope” because, just as she now shares in the Resurrection of Jesus, so shall we one day.
The Second Vatican Council called this knowledge a “comfort” for us. And it most certainly is. It tells us that God does keep his promises.
If we remain faithful unto death, we will one day be with Mary in heaven in a resurrected body. Imagine the people we will meet there, including those whom we know have gone before us. We will have all eternity to get to know everybody. Now that's a reunion I would-n't want to miss!
This knowledge that “all will be well,” as Julian of Norwich used to say when people despaired over the conditions of this present life, is something for us to think about.
No matter how bad our situation may be — at home, in the family, at work — remember that all will be well. Mary has preceded us to heaven. And, as our Mother, she'll be happy when we get there!
Brother John Raymond is the co-founder of The Monks of Adoration.